Tall and handsome in a meat-eating sort of way, Ben Affleck has the looks of a matinee idol and the resume of an actor who honed his craft as an indie film slacker before flexing his muscles as a Hollywood star. A staple of Kevin Smith films and such seminal indies as Dazed and Confused, Affleck became a star and entered the annals of Hollywood legend when he and best friend Matt Damon wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting, winning a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for their work.
Born in Berkeley, California on August 15, 1972 to a schoolteacher mother and drug rehab counselor father, Affleck was the oldest of two brothers. His younger brother, Casey, also became an actor. When he was very young, Affleck's family moved to the Boston area, and it was there that he broke into acting. At the age of eight, he starred in PBS's marine biology-themed The Voyage of the Mimi, endearing himself to junior high school science classes everywhere. The same year he made Mimi, Affleck made the acquaintance of Matt Damon, a boy two years his senior who lived down the street. The two became best friends and, of course, eventual collaborators.
After a fling with higher education at both the University of Vermont and California's Occidental College, Affleck set out for Hollywood. He began appearing in made-for-TV movies and had a small role in School Ties, a 1992 film that also featured Damon. Further bit work followed in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused (1993) and Kevin Smith's Mallrats (1995). Around this time, both Affleck and Damon were getting fed up with the lack of substantial work to be found in Hollywood, and they decided to write a screenplay that would feature them as the leads. Affleck's brother Casey introduced them to Gus Van Sant, who had directed Casey in To Die For. Thanks to Van Sant's interest, the script was picked up by Miramax, and in 1997 the story of a troubled mathematical genius living in South Boston became known as Good Will Hunting. Before the film's release, Affleck starred in Smith's Chasing Amy that same year; the tale of a comic book artist (Affleck) in love with a lesbian (Joey Lauren Adams), it received good reviews and showed Affleck to be a viable leading man. The subsequent success of Good Will Hunting and the Best Original Screenplay Oscar awarded to Affleck and Damon effectively transformed both young men from struggling actors into Hollywood golden boys. Having won his own Golden Boy, Affleck settled comfortably into a reputation as one of the industry's most promising young actors. His status was further enhanced by widespread media reports of an ongoing relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow.
The following year, Affleck could be seen in no less than three major films, ranging from his self-mocking supporting role in the Oscar-winning period comedy Shakespeare in Love to the thriller Phantoms to the big-budget box-office monster Armageddon. In 1999, Affleck continued to keep busy, appearing in a dizzying four movies. He could be seen as a dull bartender in 200 Cigarettes, an errant groom in Forces of Nature, a stock market head hunter in The Boiler Room, and a supporting cast member in Billy Bob Thornton's sophomore directorial effort, Daddy and Them. Finally, Affleck reunited with Smith and Damon for Dogma, starring with the latter as a pair of fallen angels in one of the year's more controversial films. In 2000, he would appear as an ex-con trying to mend his ways in Reindeer Games, with Charlize Theron. Re-teaming with Armageddon cohort Michael Bay again in 2001 for another exercise in overbudgeted excess, Affleck flew into action in Pearl Harbor. Despite unanimous lambasting from critics, Pearl Harbor blasted to number one at the box office, earning $75.2 million on its Memorial Day weekend opening and beginning a summer-2001 trend of high profile films with precipitous box-office runs. Following a self-mocking return to the Smith collective in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) and spearheading, along with Damon, the innovative HBO series Project: Greenlight, Affleck returned to the Hollywood machine with roles in Changing Lanes and The Sum of All Fears (both 2002). Filling the shoes of Harrison Ford as a green version of Ford's famous Jack Ryan persona, The Sum of All Fears contemplated a radical group's plan to detonate a nuclear weapon at a major sporting event during a time of particularly sensitive public distress at such an idea. With the massive success of Spider-Man in the summer of 2002 prompting numerous comic-book superhero revivals, Affleck would next suit up for the role of Daredevil. As a lawyer turned into a true public defender following a mishap involving radioactive waste, Daredevil's incredibly enhanced senses enable him to get the jump on New York City evil-doers and with his athletic physique and heroically protruding chin Affleck seemed just the man to suit-up for the job. If Affleck's turn as a blind crimefighter found dedicated comic book fans turning up their noses in disgust, the lukewarm performance of that particular effort would hardly compare to the critical lashing of his subsequent efforts Gigli, Paycheck, and Jersey Girl. A notorious flop that couldn't be mentioned to movie lovers without fear of derisive laughter, Gigli alone would have likely sunken the career of a lesser star. Though Hollywood gossip rags were indeed talking about Affleck, it was more the result of his turbulent relationship with singer and Gigli co-star Jennifer Lopez than it was anything to do with his acting career.
Just when it seemed that the ubiquitous "Ben and Jen" gossip that fueled the tabloids couldn't get more tiresome, the celebrity power-couple broke up their frequently discussed engagement to the surpirse of only the most optimistic ! Channel viewer. Wed to Alias star Jennifer Garner in 2005, Affleck subsequently skewered Hollywood materialism in the showbiz comedy Man About Town before making a cameo in pal Smith's eagerly-anticipated sequel Clerks II. By this point Affleck was certainly no stranger to Hollywood controversy, a fact that likely played well into his decision to strap on the famous red cape to portray original television Superman George Reeves in the 2006 Tinseltown mystery Hollywoodland.
As the 2000's rolled onward, Affleck would appear in a number of films that garnered a lukewarm reception, like Smokin' Aces, He's Just Not That Into You, and State of Play. He would reverse that trend with a vengeance in 2007, directing and writing the critically acclaimed crime thriller Gone Baby Gone . He followed that up by directing and starring in The Town, and that film put Affleck squarely back into audiences' good graces. He immediately got to work on his next big project, working both behind and in front of the camera once again for the political thriller Argo which garnered strong reviews, solid box office, and a slew of year-end awards including Best Picture at the Academy Awards, even though Affleck was not nominated for Best Director. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi